Many Louisiana workers lack the credentials needed to take advantage of major economic development taking place in the state. That is one of the major reasons the state Board of Regents has adopted a new higher education funding formula.
The goal is to have 60 percent of all adults between the ages of 25 and 64 hold a degree or credential by 2030, according to a report in The Advocate. Currently, only 44.2 percent of the state's working age adults meet that yardstick. The national average is 47.6 percent, but many states have higher percentages.
The number of annual degrees and credentials awarded in 2018 totaled 40,000. The new goal would require 85,000 degrees and credentials by 2030.
The regents say college graduates and certified personnel get paid more and are more likely to be covered by private health care insurance. That means about $1.3 billion income and sales taxes would eventually be collected and taxpayers would save about $1.2 billion in Medicaid costs. Medicaid is the federal-state health care plan for low-income Americans.
The new funding formula, which was approved without dissent, will put more emphasis on the progress made by lower income, minority and adult students and less priority on research and incentives tied to enrollment. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the new proposal includes a focus on educating adults as trained workers and blurs the line between high school and college, allowing greater access to specific courses.
Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said the new funding plan addresses the shortage of degrees and credentials among adults. He said the UL system has already begun to ease adults into starting or returning to college to work on degrees or training certificates.
Louisiana has 38 public colleges, technical schools and universities in four systems that educated 211,745 students in 2018. A better funding job is needed because of higher education funding reductions over the last decade. In 2008, the state appropriated about $1.5 billion to higher education, but that was down to about $750 million by 2015.
Edwards and the Legislature stopped the cuts and appropriations have been stable for two years. About $47 million was added to higher education from the state surplus at the recent legislative session.
The last higher education funding plan was adopted in 2001. The new one has the support of the four higher education systems and Gov. Edwards, who said the change is critically important for the state's future.
We believe the new focus is well-directed, and wish the regents success in their efforts to see that it is adequately funded in the future.